Letter From Michael Z. Williamson Re: Firearms and Survival

Dear Jim,
The current thread on fighting in a post-disaster environment makes me recall just before Y2K, when set up at various gun shows.
I told another dealer I had enough ammo, and he half-jokingly said, “You can’t have enough.”
I believe my quote was, “After I shoot the first forty, the rest will move on or call for artillery, depending on who they are” An invading army won’t be scared of your rifle. And a roving gang will want easy pickings.
Had things come to a disaster, my wife and I were resident managers of an industrial facility. I figured to block the drives with cinder blocks or cars, pretend the site was empty, and stand by with a shotgun and carbine at the door. If the crowd moved along the road, I’d ignore them. Only if they sought to enter our attached apartment would I have fired. My guess was that someone on guard (We’re both vets) with weapons, armor and helmet would deter most, since it would be obviously an attack on a defended position for little gain.
And yet, there actually was one attendee who insisted his survival plan was guns and ammo and “Just take what I need from those who didn’t prepare.” I gently suggested that with food, a running water supply, medical gear, sundries and hard cover, I was prepared to hold him off until he ran out of ammo or food and had to retreat. He apparently hadn’t considered that having a gun wouldn’t make him Lord of All He Surveyed.
The goal in surviving, as Heinlein noted in his excellent young adult novel “Tunnel in the Sky” is to stay alive. Not conquer (conquest is how many of these disasters start), not crusade. Just survive.
I’m fortunate enough to have the skills, money and time to have built several hi-tech small arms. But I also keep shotguns and old bolt [action] guns around–they’re easier to fix in the garage with good scrap steel, and robust. While I want a crank-fired, belt-fed Browning 1919A4, at 400 rounds per minute and 30+ pounds plus tripod, it hardly makes sense as a “survival” weapon. It may be a “rebellion” weapon, but it’s still of limited use in all but a few circumstances. It’s an indulgent toy. At the same show, a gentleman was selling what may have been the ultimate survival rifle–a pre-1899 Mosin-Nagant and a case of 7.62 x 54R ammo for $150, cash and carry. I should have grabbed some spares. – Michael Z. Williamson